Eric was struggling to see himself doing any of the ideas of how to stop violence that were being discussed in the domestic abuse help group. Jeff’s suggestion to Eric during a domestic violence program was brilliant: “If you can’t imagine yourself reacting differently, then imagine someone else doing it.”
If you can’t imagine yourself reacting differently, then imagine someone else doing it.
Eric really wanted to change and gain control of his reactions, but he was having trouble seeing himself using any of the methods. He just remembered how he’d followed the same pattern in the past, escalating into rage, and sometimes becoming violent. He felt stuck because he thought he was incapable of change. Beliefs he had about himself were getting in the way.
Jeff’s idea is particularly helpful in this situation. It works because the vision of acting differently doesn’t have to go through our memories of all the times we tried and failed. Instead, we can envision another person doing them successfully, then mimic their actions. That’s the idea of the change process we share on this website and in the Guidebook.
By shifting our focus from the result, which we may have failed at many times before, to the specific action steps for us to follow, we can learn a new pattern of responding to difficult situations. I can’t dance, but I can put my left foot forward, then bring my right foot even with it, then slide my right foot sideways…and pretty soon I’m dancing!
Shifting our focus from the result to the action steps can help us learn a new pattern of responding.
Who do you know that handles stressful circumstances without big, explosive reactions? Who sets a good example of dealing with conflict in a way that resolves it, not only without violence, but in a way that honors and preserves their relationships? Finding a mentor can be very helpful. Even if you don’t have a role model in your life, imagine one and then follow the steps you think they’d take to do it well. It can be a great way to change reactions that are really old habits and to get unstuck from self-doubt.
Good mentors can be hard to find. For one thing, humans are flawed and we all have areas where we don’t set a very good example. I know a lot of people, but many don’t live the kind of life that I want to follow. Mentorship is also rare because forming those relationships takes time for both the mentor and the mentee. People in general, and men in particular, are making less and less time to invest in these sorts of helpful liaisons.
Getting to know Jesus is a great alternative. We can learn about his character and nature in the Bible, especially in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If you’re new to the Bible and Christianity, read Mark first. It is action-packed and will take you only about 90 minutes. I think you will discover an example of a man who handled difficult life situations very differently (and much better) than any of us do. His life is worthy of following. And, he is always available for those who accept a relationship with him.